Adobe's Catch-22 Challenge: Differentiating the Customer Experience

Customer Engagement
Customer Experience
Gone are the days when product quality, price, and customer service were enough to win customers. Today customer experience--how customers feel about a brand and their encounters with the brand--is the new battleground. But customer experience itself has become a commodified term.

Gone are the days when product quality, price, and customer service were enough to win customers. Today customer experience--how customers feel about a brand and their encounters with the brand--is the new battleground. But customer experience itself has become a commodified term. At the Adobe Summit in Las Vegas, Adobe attempted to put a fresh spin on efforts to help businesses better engage and serve customers with a stable of new product rollouts and upgrades.Cross-Device Co-op
Marketers are aware that consumers use multiple devices such as smartphones, tablets, and laptops during their shopping journey. However, connecting consumer behavior across these devices remains a challenge for marketers. And while Google and Facebook offer scalable, cross-device matching capabilities it's only within the companies' respective platforms, or walled gardens.

On Tuesday, Adobe unveiled its own answer to the cross-device arms race. The Adobe Marketing Cloud Device Co-op is a network that enables brands to pool anonymized data to better identify consumers across digital touch points. A suit maker, for instance, could cross-reference its cross-device links with a shoemaker. Perhaps the suit maker knows about a customer's laptop but not his mobile phone and tablet.

If that customer also frequently purchases a certain shoe brand - and both the suit maker and shoemaker are part of Adobe's cross-device co-op - both companies can connect the mobile phone, laptop, and tablet to the customer to create a full device profile. The idea is that both companies could offer better services and more relevant messaging by having a fuller view of the customer journey.

The Device Co-op is not unlike Criteo's Universal Match product, which links anonymized CRM data from its customers on a device graph. When Criteo launched Universal Match last year, more than two-thirds of its 9,300 brand customers were already participating in the database, according to the company. The Device Co-op is still in private beta and Adobe hasn't named any customers yet, but the company estimates that it could link up to 1.2 billion devices that are "seen" by Co-op members.

The Connected Bag
Adobe also merged online and offline shopping experiences with a new smart shopping bag that functions like a virtual shopping cart. The Adobe Smart Bag, which was made in collaboration with with Capgemini and tech startup Twyst, uses Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) and radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology to allow communication between the bag and product tags.

When customers place RFID-tagged items in the bag, the BLE device recognizes the RFID tag and tracks the total cost of those products. When customers are ready to check out, they simply remove the interior bag containing the items, which sends a signal to an app triggering a mobile purchase, using payment information stored in the retailer's app. The store can then follow-up with a digital receipt via email.

Combining Insights with comScore
Under a new partnership, comScore will begin applying Adobe's census-based metrics across platforms and devices to its products to help advertisers gain more insights into their campaigns, the companies said. ComScore will incorporate Adobe Certified Metrics into its cross media, audience and advertising product suites.

Additionally, Adobe will integrate comScore audience data, including demographics, into its Marketing Cloud. This means marketers will be able to more easily compare key metrics such as the number of video starts, time spent watching and rates of ad engagement across properties, devices, and audiences. The partnership is similar to a collaboration between Adobe and Nielsen that was announced in 2014, when the companies combined Adobe Analytics and Primetime with Nielsen's digital audience measurement tools.

Data Science Ramp Up
As part of its increased investments in data science, Adobe is adding digital marketing algorithms and features including smart tags, predictive email subject lines, and automated ad insights, to its offerings. These data science capabilities are being sprinkled throughout Adobe products such as Adobe's Creative Cloud, Document Cloud, and Marketing Cloud, explains Loni Stark, senior director of strategy and product marketing at Adobe. "Data science is the backbone of numerous innovations today," Stark notes. "And naturally we're ramping up on data science capabilities to help brands form more meaningful relationships with their customers."

Of course, other companies are also investing in data science. Adobe's plan is to combine data science with its history of content and site development to deliver experiences with a creative technological twist. "We have a deep understanding of pixels and images, for example, that enables us to address the pain points many content makers face in a way that's intuitive and easy to use," Stark maintains.

Ironically, as Adobe attempts to help brands differentiate their services and offerings, the customer experience space itself has become very crowded. Other companies also enable businesses to gain a fuller understanding of the customer's needs and preferences.

Salesforce emphasizes the value of customer experiences across its service, marketing, and analytics cloud and Oracle has its customer experience suite. And Google's Analytics 360 suite includes a data marketplace, analytics, and marketing cloud tools that also competes with Adobe, Salesforce, and other companies.

But given that the best customer experience is frictionless, integrations into other technology solutions is key. And to be fair, Adobe and its competitors are increasingly enabling integration capabilities across their various platforms. So while the customer experience landscape grows more crowded, the confluence of new technologies means the customer--whether it's an individual or business--wins.